Last night I watched a movie that just blew me away! Director King Vidor's, 1928 silent classic, "The Crowd." I had never heard of it before but it is better late than never. The plot is about an "everyman" and the trials and tribulations he faces as a young, married father in New York City. Although this movie is 80 years old, the depictions of marital struggles, especially the cold/unaccepting mother-in-law are priceless and hold true even today. Even the financial conflicts between husband and wife are relevant to today's economy. Which I guess goes to show that human nature is what it is and doesn't change that much over the years. We all want to be loved and happy - to provide for our family and to feel some importance in the world.
But what really gripped me were the ways in which grief and tragedy were portrayed. And again, I found them similar to today's reactions. The young family faces a horrific tragedy when their baby daughter is hit by a truck in a senseless, freak accident. As the family waits to learn of their of their daughter's fate, the father becomes crazed with grief. He can't be still and runs out to the busy street where he tries to demand that the world become more quiet. As this scene played out, I understood exactly what was going through this man's head. When someone you love is dying, you just want the world to stop if even for a moment! A policeman interacts with the father and curtly says, "Get inside! The world can't stop because your baby's sick!" A very modern reaction to such a situation today, as well. In subsequent scenes, the father pretty much goes to pieces in his grief but is not supported or understood by his co-workers - he is expected to get over it and move on. Again, current expectations about how people should handle grief. The quote that is shown on screen during this part of the movie says it all: "The crowd laughs with you always...but it will cry with you for only a day."
This movie was considered too depressing for its time (early Depression - people only wanted to see fun movies to escape their reality). But the director insisted the movie be produced as per his vision - a realistic portrayal of honest life. It is the first movie ever to show a toilet - again the director took flack for this as people going to the show didn't want to be reminded of bodily functions. But again, he insisted the toilet remain in the footage because it is a fact of life! There is a camera tracking scene in which the side of a skyscraper is panned up from the bottom to the top and ends by going into a window which leads to a wide scene of a huge office space. This is considered to be one of the most famous tracking scenes in the history of movies. In fact, some people say you should see this great movie if only because of this camera mastery - I don't know how they accomplished that feat back then - utterly spectacular - it took my breath away as I watched!
The end of the movie really put the whole viewing into perspective for me. The MGM executives had seven different endings shot because of their view that the movie was too depressing. But the director's first choice was used. The movie ends with the small family taking a break from their tragedy by going to a vaudeville show. They are shown laughing in the large theatre as the camera pans away from them. I was overcome with the meanings this ending evoked for me; that life can overcome tragedy; that life can go on; that it is possible to be happy again and most importantly, how we all need love in our lives and if we have it, life will be survivable. All beliefs I hold to be true since facing my losses.
On a personal note, what watching this movie made me realize is that I need to watch more movies and go out and do more for myself. I do read a lot because I can do it easily and with the time I have but I need to see more of the world and to be exposed to more priceless gems such as this movie. There are more restaruants to try, more parks to explore, more antique shops to discover to name just a few!
Today I am grateful:
1. To have had an opportunity to view this masterpiece of our history.
2. For the creative genius of the director, King Vidor.
3. To realize that insights can be gained from the past.
4. For the vitalization and perspective one gets from being exposed to art in all forms.
5. For the excitement for living this movie brought out in me.